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A teakettle always sat on the wood-burning cook stove in our farm kitchen. Why? Nobody in the family drank tea. Not once in my years at home, well maybe once when a fussy Chicago visitor demanded the beverage, did I see anyone make tea using our teakettle.

With no indoor plumbing at the home farm, the teakettle, which never left its place on the cook stove, provided our sole source of hot water. Its uses were many. Thawing out a frozen pipe in the pump house. Removing the ice from a frozen pig trough. Providing hot water for what my father called a “whiskey sling” when someone in the family had a cold. [Directions for a whiskey sling: Start with a tall glass of hot water. Add a jigger of “medicinal” whiskey, and add a little honey to make the concoction go down more easily.]

The idea of the whiskey sling, which was taken just before bedtime, was to cause the sick person to sweat. “It’ll sweat that cold right out of you,” Pa would say. 

It worked. I’m still here.

Today, at our Roshara Cabin, we cook with a wood-burning stove. And the teakettle is always there. One difference. It has been a long time since I’ve partaken of a whiskey sling.

THE OLD TIMER SAYS: I met a fellow the other day who talked nonstop and didn’t say a thing.

Jerry Apps, born and raised on a Wisconsin farm, is Professor Emeritus at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the author of more than 35 books, many of them on rural history and country life.

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